Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 Halloween Hustle Marathon Results


I try to come home to southern Wisconsin every few months to visit my folks so Salacia and I decided to head back in late October to spend the weekend enjoying the cool fall weather. About 10 days before the trip, karma told me to check the race schedule to see what might be going on. Turns out there was a marathon that weekend with a start line about 4 miles away from my parents house, so of course I signed up.

The race is still young and is trying to go with the whole run-while-in-costume schtick, and I would guess that maybe 1/3 of runners were dressed up in something resembling a costume. I found out later there were cash prizes for the costume contests. I had been hoping that my large entry fee was going to some good charity. Oh well. I have burnt plenty of money on other races, and they can't all be cheap.

The course was a little bit of everything. The first 4 miles were flat pavement out in the wide open with a little wind. Then it turned into residential roads with gentle hills and lots of turns. Then dirt trail in heavy woods. Then long hills in open farmland. Repeat. They get mad props for variety of race course.

Being late October in Wisconsin, of course it is going to be a cool morning, so it was no surprise a 7-10 mph breeze with 32 degrees met us at race start. I wore two shirts + a throwaway shirt at the start and the temps increased to low 50's and slightly higher winds as the race wore on. I tossed my throwaway shirt just before we went into the shady woods with lower temperatures. That was a mistake, but not fatal.

It is rare for my mother and my daughter to see me race, so this time being able to see both of them whilst running was cool. I first saw them at about mile 1 (they avoided the chaos of the start) and four more time throughout the race. I have run many many races and almost never get a loved one to actually cheer me on as I run by. It was nice and I even stole a few hugs from Salacia when I had a chance.

In my new method of starting slow and speeding up in an effort to meet as many people as possible during the race, this was a fun race. I met many people including a Zoology professor at UW-Madison, 2 graduate students (biology and psychology) students, a supply chain manager, a manager of a local Target, a hedge fund manager, and a nuclear medicine technician and an IT guy (that's actually what he called himself). A few of them running their first marathon (those are the most fun to talk to) and a few veterans. The last group I ran with had just shy of 200 marathons run total between the four of us. We had some fun conversations.

I carried my camera with me to take pics of people and things but I wanted to make sure I got a good quality photo of my handstand and I knew that Salacia would be at the finish line. As I approached I was looking forward trying to find her and eventually did about 30 feet before the finish line. I stopped stone cold and handed her the camera (people immediately started talking, trying to figure out why I stopped there. I walked towards the finish line while she got the shot ready asking her "Are ya ready?" When she responded in the affirmative, I turned, did my handstand to the cheering crowd, and then looked back again at her and asked 'Did ya get it?' and again she answered in the affirmative. That was cool.

There was one sad moment of the day. About 20 feet past the finish line I saw a man on the ground having CPR being performed on him. Obviously overweight, I assumed he was a recent half marathon finisher and it happened very soon before I finished as the ambulance that had been partked 1/4 mile away had not yet got to the spot. Knowing what the statistics are regarding people who have CPR performed upon them is not great, I assumed the worst. I have been checking the news and had he passed away I am sure there would have been a mention somewhere. Since there was not, it seems like her survived which is great news.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2013 Wildlife Marathon Results (Or: A New Way to Enjoy Marathon 'Racing')

11/123 overall

This was my third time running my only 'real' (not counting my FA races) local marathon, with the starting line about 10 mile from my house and portions of the course along some of my most favorite running routes. I try to no run the same race in consecutive years as I try to keep memories of individual races separate in my head. This was the 5th running of the wildlife race, but I had run it the inaugural year and the 3rd year.

So it was a beautiful course, and the race operation is getting better, now in its 5th year. The first year, there were only 28 finishers, but now there are over 100. While there are other bigger races going on right around this time (Detroit, Grand Rapids) this race is small and full of love. It will only get bigger and better.

After my 'restart' a few months ago, I have been trying to come up with new/different things to get me motivated to run marathons, like running barefoot for example. Recently came up with a  new idea where I start out slow, find someone to chat with, and when the conversation goes stale or reaches natural end point, speed up and meet someone new and start over again. Repeat until you find a person you want to finish with or until you reach a point where catching the next person is out of the question. My local race seemed like a great place to test out the new method. As predicted I learned a lot.

I got to the race about 45 min before the start and along with standard pre-race things (bib, timing chip, emptying my bowels, etc.) but I also got to chat with many friends of mine who were also running either the full or half marathon. Since it was my local race I knew quite a few of them. All good folks.

I had been sick most of the week before, so I was trying to rest and did little running. I wanted to start out 'slow' so I planted myself about halfway back hoping that would be about the 4 hour group of people. After about 1.5 mile I realized I had already matched up with people more along the times of 3:40. There were plenty of people in that group, so that was ok.

In brief, here are a few stories I got to hear in the first ~11 miles.

- At about mile 5, the eventual 3rd and 4th place female finishers in the half marathon caught me and the group I was with (The half marathon started after the Marathon, so these ladies were cruising at about 6:45) so I decided to fly with them for a half a mile. While focused and clipping along, we still managed a short conversation about half marathons and how cool it was that 5 of the first 6 half marathoners were women.

- A brother/sister group, his 9th, her 1st marathon. They both live outside Detroit and had never been to Jackson before, and were surprised. There found we have some cool stuff here.

- A 30ish year old runner on his 14th marathon, who was interested in my state quest and asked me lots of questions (cost, time, motivation) about it. He has been 'considering' that idea for a while. I gave him plenty of pros and cons.

- Three separate teachers over different parts of the day. A college professor, a 3rd grade teacher, and a gifted/talented teacher.

- At least 5 people who I tried to strike up a conversation with who ignored me or couldn't hear me because of their earbuds. I brought my iPod but only listened to it when I was doing my 'sprints' to catch the next group of people.

At ~mile 10 I met up with a young woman who was running her first race. She wanted to run under 3:30 and I am not 100% sure she did. I ran with her for a while, trying to keep her nearest competitor (at that point about 1/2 mile ahead) close. At this point, I was on a 3:25 pace, and I thought I could catch a few more people, so I said my goodbye wishing her luck, and decided to try to catch a few more people.

I eventually caught the next runner at about mile 12 who would eventually be the first masters finisher. It was first marathon and she is a cross country/track coach so she had a huge support group. We joined up with another gentlemen on the course and the three of us stayed steady for quite a while. Her longest run before this day had been 20 miles so at mile 15 I did my best to prepare her for what was going to happen to her at mile 20. I was blunt, but tried not to scare her. She started to fade at about mile 21, but I tried hard to motivate her. doing my standard late race motivation.

It was a great race, and it gave me a huge dose of I-Love-Running motivation. As someone who is trying to get back to the love of the sport, this helped a lot.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

FWFA Marathon Results (Or: Mark's Little Race)

1/4 overall

Fat Ass races are low-key events that have no entry fee, no timing chips, no race shirts, nor fancy finishers medals. With marathon entry fees going up, especially at bigger races, there has been a boom of these types of races around the country. These smaller, more personal races are more for the purity of the run. They can be just as fun and memorable as any big time race.

As I near my 100th career marathon(+) I decided I want to start my own Fat Ass race and bring people from around the southern Michigan area to a beautiful part of Jackson, the Falling Waters trail. I had figured out that there was a simple (read: almost impossible to get lost) 13.1 mile out and back section of the trail. Add that it was late September so the temperature was perfect and the trees had started to turn color and you got yourself a perfect set of race conditions.

My day began at 5:30 am with Misty and I going to setup the aid stations for the race. Since it was free, I went cheap on the supplies. At the 3.5/8.5 mile point I put a small table with a gallon of gatorade and a gallon of water with some cups. A similar station was placed at the the 6.55 mile turn around. We then headed to the start finish line to setup a table for people’s contributions to the event. I had asked for people to bring what they could for post race food. We ended up with a good variety including cookies, pretzels and apple cider.

For an 8am start, the first people showed up around 7:25. I hand made 2”x3” ‘race bibs’ out of some tarp I had lying around. I am trying to make this race a little different and fun. The runners seemed to enjoy it. A little after 8am, I explained the route and how simple it was and we took off.

As an added incentive to make the race more interesting for me personally, I ran it barefoot. I have been doing barefoot/minimalist running for a little over a year now and never run more than 14 miles barefoot before, but I knew that this would be a great first marathon sans shoes. The course is on paved trail the entire way, but this asphalt was is good condition so it was not that bad. Every once in awhile, I would wander off the trail and run along the grass next to the trail to give my feet a little break from the hard asphalt. The problem was that, while it was soft, the grass was high and it was hard to see sticks and rocks so I was running very cautiously. In the end, I ran a total of 3-4 miles on the grass. I was pleasantly surprised that I had only 2 quarter sized ‘wounds’ on the balls of my feet, that was it. Of course it slowed me down, but I was quite happy with a 3:31 finish time.

In order to get a few more attendees, I had both a half and full marathon distance. Misty was kind enough to hang at the start/finish and make sure that people got their finishers medal for the half marathon and hold down the finish line until I came in later. She is such a sweetie.

With the idea of trying to make this free race ‘unique’ I decided I wanted to make homemade finishers medals that were still fun. The design I settled on was a poker chips with hole drilled in it, the race information put on it by hand with a permanent marker and a twine lanyard. Memorable and cheap, all at the same time :)

The last finisher came in only 35 minutes after me, so I was able to get home pretty quick after that. It helps that the starting line is less than 2 miles from my house. The total cost to me to put on this race was less than $15, which is just fine. There were fewer people than I had hoped, but those who came were very happy with the event. I hope to do it again in the spring time.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 Woodstock Mellow Marathon Results (Or: A Crappy Trail Race)

2/114 Overall
1st Masters

 2 years ago I ran the marathon at this ‘festival’ in 3:42. Yup, that race was horrible with it raining most of the 24 hours before the race. I won it, so that took some of the this-course-is-really-crappy sting out of the experience. This time, the course was dry, but in some ways, it was worse. I am not planning on running it again, just so ya know...

 Woodstock is a actually a weekend long party with music and people camping out and trying to get the whole woodstock feel. While people are chillin’ and listening to 1960’s music, there are races going on. Lots of them. The following race distances happened during the course of the 3 days:  1 mile, 5K, 5 mile, 10K, 10 mile, half marathon, full marathon, 50K, 50 mile, 100K, and 100 mile. All had different start times and were run on two different loops with some parts of the loops overlapping. That meant you were never alone for too long. You would think that would be good, well it wasn’t if you were trying to run it fast. 

 About 60% of the course was on single track with lots of rocks, roots, stumps. So not only was the trail crappy (some people like such a challenge, I do not) there were 100K and 100 mile runners on the trail who had been running for hours, so they were going slower than me so I had to keep slowing and asking for permission to go around them. That was more than frustrating, not because I thought the were in my way, it was just frustrating that I had to be rude saying ‘On your left’ about 3126 times during the race. I felt like I was being rude, trying to pass them to get a good finish time. 

 After the first loop I was in the lead by at least 300 m, which was the farthest could 'look back' at any point. My lack of serious marathon training did catch up to me as I was passed by two people at mile 15 and 17 respectively, though I did not slow THAT much. Well, until I fell down.... As with my last race, someone in front of me who should have finished before me took a wrong turn on the course and was disqualified. I learned my lesson to study the race course well before a race. Other still need to do that I guess. You never know when you will be the lead dog (or nobody near by) and if you don't know where you are going, you just might get DQ'd (or run long) because you took a wrong turn. 

A few days before the race I had been running on the road in my VFF’s and came down wrong, jamming my big toe pretty bad, a condition I later found out was turf toe. Such an ailment has been know to keep NFL football players out of games. Yeah, it hurts, but it wasn’t stopping me, of course. About a week before the race I had smashed my other big toe and it was still not 100% either. You don’t know how important your big toe is to your running form until you injure them. So as I was running this rocky/rooty course I was paying more attention than I wanted to on the ground in front of me. This task removes the enjoyment of running trails, being able to look at the trees and such. In the first 21 miles, I only stumbled (slightly) 3 times, never actually falling. At mile 21 I hit a rock and went down hard jamming my big toe on a mostly hidden rock. Again. I actually did cry out in agony and the next 40 steps were very very tender.

 It was the kind of injury that knew would be ‘ok’ in a few minutes, but it slowed me down because now I would spend the last 5 miles looking exactly 3 feet in front of me trying to not trip yet again. It is amazing how un-fun such a run is. I knew my place was pretty much set and I just wanted to finish without getting seriously injured, so I was not that upset with the resultant pace, but the reason for the slowing was frustrating. 

2nd and 1st place finishers
 After I crossed the finish line with my handstand, I chatted with Matt, the 31 year old winner who came in 4 minutes before me and was actually a really nice dude. We chatted afterwards for a good 10 minutes talking about running ultras, the course, etc. That was cool. It was completely different than my last race a few weeks ago (where I also finished second) where the winner had no intention of talking to me or any other racer that day. 

 As a big local race, I had many many friends who were running the races offered or helping out others as crew. I tried to chat with as many as I could throughout the day, but due to the varying start times, I only got to chat with ~10 of them. I only hung out for a little while afterwards, having some food and listening to the tunage, watching people occasionally cross the finish line to cheers from audience listening to the band. 

I will never race here again. I hate the course because of the constant tripping hazards and crowded trails, and am not a huge fan of the entire setup (so many races on top of each other) but I might come back as a crew member or pacer. I could handle that. There are plenty of races within a reasonable drive, so it is not like I am going to miss it. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The 16 Mile Training Run (or: The 'perfect' endurance workout)


       So we all have our favorite workouts, be it a certain route, format (tempo, interval), or time of day. Today on my new 16 mile route I had a major revelation. I contend that 16 miles is the sweet spot workout when training for any distance from half marathon up to 100 milers. 

       Before I explain why it is good for so race training of various lengths, let me just talk about how awesome the distance is as a training run. Here a few good reasons:
1. It is 'short' enough that your body does not bonk, so you can get away with only carrying liquids.
2. It is long enough that your body has to work for it, meaning you can't sluff it off.
3. It is long enough you will experience lows and highs during the run, so you have to keep your brain frosty.
4. It is short enough you can (after a few times) do it multiple times a week, as opposed to a 30 miler which you can do maybe twice in a week.
5. It is short enough such that you don't have to carve out a major chunk of your real-life schedule to fit it in.
6. It is short enough that you can do it fast (tempo-ish) or you can do it long-run pace.

 For half and full marathon training, you are trying to teach your brain that your body can handle the distance. Now, running a 16 mile race in training for a half seems silly, but I would disagree. The 16 mile training run builds endurance which you need for a half, and also give you that mental confidence. And for marathons, well every training schedule has many 16(ish) mile training runs.

       Using the 16-miler for ultra training is a little different, as you would think 16 miles is short, but after 16 miles in an ultra is when your body is getting to the point you need to start thinking about putting calories in your body. 16 mile training runs are great when you incorporate them into other ultra important training aspects including ultra diet training and mental end-of-race training. The 16 miler is essential there too.  And remember you can train for a 100 mile race and still have a life.

So go out and map a 16 mile route. Find one that is flat and fast. Find another one that is a little tougher. Find one that has nothing but hills. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

2013 Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame 10K Results (Or: A Little Farther For the W)

1/100 Overall

So I recently decided that I needed to get back to my running roots in an effort to re-motivate myself before I totally gave up on this sport. My first race in this new ideology was a small town 5K a few weeks ago which was great fun. This race was the next in the logical length sequence, a local 10K. I discovered a few things about myself, all of them good.

The race was organized by the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame, an organization trying to promote athletic achievement in the (duh) Greater Lansing area. They have an annual induction ceremony and such, and just like the NFL hall of fame, they have a sports event to coincide with the induction, in this case, a 5K and 10K pair of races.

The race started in downtown Lansing just a few blocks from the state capital, then headed south along the Grand River with both races being simple out and backs. I made sure to enjoy the view of the river during my warm-up, because I had a feeling that I would not be wanting to sight see during the race. I was right.

At race start, I looked around and tried to get a 'read' on the competition and saw nobody who looked like they were real speed demons. There were a few high school guys up front with me but they were both running the 5K, so I would not know what I was in for until ~1.5 miles in when the 5K races took their turn.

I go out in what I think is a comfortable pace, hitting mile 1 in 6:02, but not knowing if I could hold it that long. It felt good, but difficult. Part of this race experience was to test that middle distance speed+endurance race strategy. I have been doing more short (6-8 mile) training runs with a speed component, and it paid off. As I came up to the 5K turn, the leader was ~50 meters in front and I was gaining on one of the teenagers. Much to my surprise, the leader had turned, which meant I was leading the 10K race and I would stay there all day. There was volunteer whose job it was to be lead dog (well, he had a bike) for the race who had been waiting at the 5K turn. He wasn't really paying that close attention, so I actually had to say 'GO!' to him as I almost ran into him. I did not look back to see what sort of lead I had, but from cheering spectators, I could tell it was small.

I hit the turnaround in 19:10 and finally had a chance to see what my lead was, and I got concerned as it was only about 20 meters. I was feeling ok, but not sure how long I could hold that pace. You see, I always start races too fast and generally wilt at the first sign of distress. For whatever reason, this race was different. I was going hard, but still had plenty of energy. I ate a Hammer Nutrition Energy Bar 2 hours before the race, my electrolyte pills as well as some amino acid pills. My brain and muscles did great all day long.

The mile markers came and I was holding 6:05-6:10 pace mile in and mile out, which surprised me a little. I was getting tired, but maintaining speed. Again, this is not normally me. With about 1.5 miles left to go, I looked over my shoulder to see what my lead was down to, and I swear he was only 5 meters behind me. I briefly had my standard thought in such a situation, "oh good, soon he will pass me and I can relax and take second place".  Then a new, never seen before thought appeared.. "Or, you could press a little harder and try to break his confidence, drop him, and go home with hardware." I bore down, pumped my arms and tried to put in a good 600 meter pickup in an effort to separate me from him and it did not work. With about 1200 meters to go, he was still 5 meters back. By now I was breathing heavy and my arms were doing a lot of work. Nearing the finish, maybe 400 meters from the end there was 1-block-long hill, and so I again I dug a little deeper, tightened my face and pounded up the hill in an effort to separate myself and this time it worked. When I got to the top of the hill I looked again and he had dropped back to about 10 meters behind me. I was confident now I could hold him off, but I still caught myself glancing back to make sure he didn't have some super-human afterburner that he was waiting until the very end to use. He did not.

Finish time of 38:10 means I negative split a 10K. Read that again. I, the not-known-for-consistent-speed runner negative split a 10K race. No, that has never happened before. In my 140 races in the modern era, I have negative split (maybe) 2 races. That is just not my nature. Until today.

A pleasant post-race cool down with some of the other runners, including Karen, the female overall winner. As we were coming back from our cool down run the announcer was asking if anyone had seen Karen or I and that we were to report to the finish line. They had been wanting to give us our hardware.

My award given to me by Eric Zemper, a 2013 inductee into the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame. In reading his resume, he is a pretty big deal. Nice guy, too. The whole award ceremony was done in short order and I packed up and got ready to go.

You might just think this was just another race, but it was significant. The W is nice, for sure, but more importantly I learned that I do have some killer instinct still in me. Lately I have been trying to get my groove back, and it is returning, but the competitive incentive is helping.

I am really looking forward to my next race in 3 weeks, a local half marathon. I would tell you my goals, but I am not sure what they are yet, except I wan to enjoy it. :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A New (re)Start

Short Version: I have chosen to stop running Hundos and am going back to running shorter races (<50 miles) until such a time that I want to run Hundos again.

Long Version:
This might make more sense if I give you a brief history lesson.
Fall 2005: I run my first race is roughly two decades, a 21:24 5K. It was a great day, the beginning of what I refer to as the 'Modern Era'.
Sunburst 2006
June 2006: Realizing that as I have gotten older, I prefer slightly longer races, I try my hand (feet?) at the 26.2 mile distance and manage to break 3 hours in my first ever marathon in Indiana. I am flying high emotionally for about a week.

Spring 2008: After two handfuls of marathons, I set a goal of running a marathon in all 50 states before I turn 40 years old (8/18/2012) Which makes me an official 'state chaser. I check off this feat in October, 2010 in Connecticut.

2008: 15 marathons, 1 ultra marathon.

2009: 13 marathons.

2010: Knowing I am close to the 50 states goal, I decide my new goal is to go ultra, but not in small steps, I go straight to crazy land. In April, 2010, I attempt a 24 hour race (my only such race to date) to see if I can even finish a 100 mile race if I attempt one. I manage to run 101 miles in ~20 hours before I stop (I achieved all my goals, so I was done) In July of 2010, I attempt my first 100 mile race and finish 9th in the USATF 100 Mile national championship. I am now in elite company, as a 100 mile finisher.

late 2011/early 2012: Thinking I am invincible I start focusing on 100 mile races and do poorly, with my worst 100 mile time in Jan 2012, a 21:01:51 at the Winter Beast of Burden. Emotional damage done.

2012: I re-evaluate my training, and realize I am not the hot stuff I thought I was and start solving my problems (diet, training, race-day-procedure, etc. ) I get things turned around and get my 100 miles times back down to damn-near competitive.

August 2012: I pull a massive PR (by over an hour) running a 15:27:56 at the Summer Beast of Burden. While it was a great day, I end up in the ER for 30+ hours from dehydration and rabdomyolosis. The mental trauma from that little experience causes concern.

Jan 2013: While DNS'ing a 100 mile race in Florida, I decide to go down and volunteer for the race, where I meet Mike Morton who turns me onto a ketosis diet, which I start in March, 2013.

April 2013: I run the Indiana Trail 100 and at the end, I end up in the back of an ambulance, but after another solid race.

Early summer 2013: I start training for the 2013 100 mile championship but my heart is not in it. Doing 35+ mile days is no longer enjoyable. I have the worst position, that of someone who is >this< short of being slightly competitive in my sport (the 100 mile distance) so I am trying hard, but since I am trying hard, it has stopped being fun. When you hobby becomes more like a job, it stops being an enjoyable pastime. I had hit that point. I am now on the restrictive ketosis diet which is rough mentally, and not helping my running attitude.

June 2013: I run the inaugural GR Well-being 12 hour race, where, after 6 hours I am kicking butt but I have to stop for medical reasons. Turns out, I cannot (with my biology) run long races in hot weather on a ketosis diet as I cannot get enough fluids into me, I just can't. When I drop after 6 hours, sadly, I am not that sad. The previous 2 hours were tough mentally. I was asking myself 'why am I doing this?' more often that was appropriate.

That day I make two watershed decisions: |
1. I am dropping the ketosis diet and going back to a gluten-free paleo-style diet. It is quite healthy and more importantly, it don't mind it.
2. I will not be running the 100 mile national championship this year. My heart is just not it. I am not doing this for a paycheck, and it was not worth the anguish.

Which leads me to now. I knew I needed to do something drastic to get my groove back before I completely give this sport up, which I do not want to happen. I started running because I like eating food and I still do, so I can't stop running, but I can take a moment to enjoy it again, so I have. I want to become more of an ambassador to running, and I found that as a 100 mile running 'freak' I was so far from most other runners, they did not feel like they could relate to me.

I have decided to start over again. A few weeks ago, I ran my first 5K in over 2 years and it was awesome. The euphoria afterwards reminded me of my first marathon back in 2006. In a few days I will run a 10K and  then in the middle of August, I am running a half marathon. And then, back to my precious marathon in the fall. I am planning on running 3-4 of them (and RD'ing a local FA marathon) before the end of the year.

While I am re-starting, I have a few advantages going for me....
- I am running only 50-60 miles/week now and it feels great to be running that little.
- I am in shape, have some endurance, and a lot of experience in racing.
- I have a meager following on this blog and facebook to try to inspire other runners.
- I have no long term goals that are acting as anchors around my neck.
- I have no toenails so I do not have to worry about losing them in marathons.

The last few weeks running in the new 'mentality' has made a huge difference. Instead of running 12-15 miles slow and feeling blah, I am doing 8-10 miles at a good clip, and afterwards I feel great, as if I actually did some positive work. I feel like I did way back when. I like that feeling, and I want it to stay...

Elite marathoners take weeks off with no running after major races. I have not taken a break from running since I started again in 2005. The longest I have gone without running is 3 days in the span of 8 years, and only that is after 100 mile races. Maybe I just needed to take a break, and I sincerely hope this will get be back to where I want to be.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2013 Kenya Dig It 5K Results (Or: I think I Just Overdosed on Endorphins)


4/158 Overall
1/13 Age

My running lately has taken a lot of turns. Having a few medical issues recently and some motivational issues, I have decided to take a step back and one of the new solutions is to go back to running local short races for the thrill of a fast turnover, raising money for a good cause and enjoy the small town ‘connection’ to such races. This one fit the bill quite nicely.

The Kenya Dig It 5K is a fundraising run organized by the Tecumseh High School to raise funds for drilling water wells in Kenya. It has been going for 5 years and they have dug over 70 wells in the town of Eldoret, Kenya.

Fundraiser for good cause, check.

Tecumseh is a small town of 8500 people and the race was held at the (rather nice) High School. The race only had about 100 runners, but there might have been 50 volunteers. As usual with such races, the volunteers were plentiful and very kind. Nothing but smiles when I checked in and when they were bringing out plates and plates of goodies post race including fruit, cookies, and popsicles.

Small town ‘love’, check.

Foggy cemeteries are cool
The race began in the front parking lot of the High School, then out for a quick tour of the local neighborhood which included a half mile section through a cemetery. I have never run through one when training and certainly never during a race. That was a little weird. I had done a warm-up along the course barefoot to see if I wanted to do the race sans shoes, and the asphalt in the cemetery was old and rough and hurt my feet a lot. I could have ran on the grass, but the headstones were REALLY close to the road and running on graves is not something I am cool with. I ended up wearing my Vibrams for the race. Yes, I got the requisite number of inquiries about my footwear.

It was clear from the beginning there were some fast young folk in this race (winning time was 15:50ish) so I was happy to be in 5th place after the first 400 m. I did not bring a GPS watch so I had to wait until I hit the mile marker to see how fast I was going. I was hoping to stay close to low 6's but since I NEVER train at this pace, I had no idea how fast I was going, just that I was doing a clip I thought I could hold for the race. 5:40. Yikes, I did not even realize I could go that fast.

PhotoThere was a water station at about mile 1.8 and while the temperature was only 70, it felt way hotter. Because of my recent water history, I of course slowed a beat to grab a cup and drank half of it, trying to keep steady. Mile 2 came in at 11:39, so I had slowed a little, but that was no great surprise. I go out too fast, this is old news. I managed to pass a young running stud at mile 1.5, so I felt comfortable that I would keep my 4th place. The last mile was an actual struggle. I was breathing very hard and driving my arms for all they were worth. We came back to the High School but had to run behind it and then do 3/4 of a loop around the track to the finish line (a-la Olympic marathon finishes) and as I came in  I could see the elapsed time up on the scoreboard and it was high 17's. I just wanted to break 18:30 and so I bore down and sprinted as best I could. I crossed the finish line and stopped and hunched over for a moment trying to catch my breath.

Fast turnover, check.

Wow that was totally awesome. The feel at the end of this race was a feeling I have not had in quite a while. Accomplishment and pure joy. I certainly enjoy finishing ultras and marathons, but the endorphins were so thick (due to my speed, I guess) that I was totally trippin' for several hours. I was very happy, and emotionally overdosing on it.

It reminded me of why I started running again, and now 7 years after I started running again, I needed a race like this. It has been 2 years since my last 5K. Now I realize how important such races are to me, be it sprint work or just the variety of the race distance. I shall add a few more to my race calendar.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

RX Run 12-Hour Results (or: A Water Shed Day in My Running Life)

43 miles in first 6 hours. 0 miles in last 6 hours.

Well, I had high hopes coming to Grand Rapids and kicking some serious butt on a beautiful 1.55 mile loop timed race. My training had been going ‘ok’, and I had my ace crew chief (My lovely wife Misty) there to help me. Alas, I would ultimately pull myself due to a medical issue, a decision that was more long term than you might think.

Misty and I arrived in town the night before, picked up our packets, ate dinner and just relaxed in our hotel room. It was standard night-before-race conditions where I go to bed and wake up at 2 am, unable to fall back asleep and I have crazy nightmares in my half-awake state between 2 am and when the alarm went off at 5:30 am.  

Being the day after the Summer Solstice, there were plenty of hours in the day to have a 12 hour race and it be light the whole time, so I was totally ok with an 8 am race start. The temperature was already in the mid 60s and a little muggy, but the sky was overcast and combined with a gentle breeze, nobody complained.

The race was put on by a local company WellBeing, LLC and they are trying to promote mental health (addiction, depression, etc) treatment with basic exercise instead of drugs. As anyone who gets runner high more than a few times a week can tell you, it totally works. While when I started running back in 2005 it was to loose a little excess weight, I quickly realized how my life had become low stress, and I sure liked it. Here was a local organization I could totally support. This was their first race, so they had some hiccups, but I thought they did a great job.

Ryan Miller, Friend and Fellow Ultrarunner
The course was a simple 1.55 mile loop along the Grand River, which was actually quite beautiful. With a loop that distance, you only need the one aid station at the start finish which was stocked with standard ultra fare (even though there were only a handful of ultrarunners) but of course I did not partake of any of it, due to my ketosis diet.

With the low-carb diet, I brought along my own stash of fuel including fresh berries, almond butter spread on low-carb tortillas, and homemade keto energy gel. I set up my aid station just past the start finish where Misty hung out and helped me when I came around when she was not walking herself. She managed to (officially) finish 7 laps of the course in between helping me. I enjoyed coming up behind her on the race course. Her smile helped me a lot. She is just so darn cute...

The race started, and as usual, I started out fast, doing the first 8 miles in just over an hour. It was a little fast, but I felt good. My ankle was uncomfortable but it has been for 8 months and I knew it would only get a little worse then just be a constant pain, so I ignored it.

I hit the 26.2 mile point of the race in 3:26, so that was nice. I was feeling pretty good and of course making wild predictions about how many miles I could actually run. I was running each 1.55 mile loop in 13-14 minutes, loop after loop. I was doing what I wanted, running even.

The temperature would eventually get to 88 degrees and I knew that so I was drinking as fast as I could, roughly 8 oz of liquid every mile. Yup, that's a lot. Think about doing a ‘shot’ of water, once per minute, every minute, for 6 hours. That's how much I was consuming, and yet it still was not enough.

Ketosis involves using fat as your primary fuel source (instead of carbs) and I have been doing it since March, with the desired results in that I can run and run and muscles do not get sore. One issue is that if you body is burning fat for fuel, it requires more water than a ‘normal’ diet just because of the nature of the process. Put more simply, keto athletes have to drink more water than non-keto athletes.

And that is why 1oz of liquid per minute was still not enough for me. I have had dehydration problems long before I went keto so I might have other medical hydration issues.

Everything (besides my hydration) was going great. My muscles were not cramping, my mind was focused. My stomach was doing just fine as well. My hourly Hammer Nutrition pills were keeping me going just fine.

I had urinated twice in the first 4 hours and everything was cool, as it was a light yellow which is what I wanted. But of course, I had a lot of liquid ‘on board’ at the start of the race and I burned (ha!) through that pretty quick. Halfway through my 28th lap (which would be my last) I stopped to pee a third time, and a stop sign showed up. Yup, I had blood in my urine. Again.

I continued on and met Misty finishing her 7th lap about 100m from the start/finish and gave her the bad news. We decided to stop there and get water in me and monitor the situation.

The last time I peed blood in an ultra, I ended up in the hospital for 36 hours. I was not going to do that again. So we sat there for an hour and a half putting water down my gullet as fast as I could drink it, and eventually my urine cleared, but I had been scared enough and my motivation had taken a huge hit as I knew I was not going to achieve my goal miles.

My health is worth a hell of a lot more than how many miles I can run, so I decided at 7.5 hours into it to pull myself from the race. Misty and I packed up and left as I did want to hang around and beat myself up after I made the (hard) decision to bail.

To take my mind off the situation, Misty took me out to an early dinner and a movie. She is the most awesome life partner I could ask for. She knows me so well and knows how to help me when I need help. She knows what to say when, how to be supportive, and when to just be a shoulder to cry on.

A very depressing end to a race, but it made start to think about much bigger things. It is time to re-evaluate my running career. I am not sad, mind you. I see this is a karmic sign to make changes. To go back to enjoying my running.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dehydration Can Be A Real Problem (or: Blood in Urine! Not Again!)

Last summer I posted a 100 mile PR by over an hour with a solid 15:27, but then spent the next 30+ hours in the ER. What was said to be rhabdomylosis probably was at least part of that, but it was also compounded with dehydration. That day in upstate NY was quite warm, and while I thought I was drinking enough liquid, I only urinated twice, the first being orange, the second being red. Blood red. We shall ignore (for now) the fact that I should have stopped, blah, blah, blah. What we should note was that I was a few pints low on liquid and the IV bags were plentiful and fast-draining for me afterwards.

So you would expect me to be better about drinking more liquids. Well, I thought I was doing better. Fall came and temperatures dropped, so I did not have to keep my liquid intake as high as in the summer and I seemed to have no problems.

In the spring of this year, I became a ketogenic athlete getting the majority of my energy from fats instead of carbs. When you are on a ketogenic diet, turns out you need to be drinking more water than normal, because of the way your body uses the fat for fuel. So I needed to up my water intake just because of my diet.

When I ran the Indiana Trail 100, it was cold (30-40 degrees) but I made sure to drink lots of water, and I urinated many (read: enough) times so I was ok. I drank roughly a quart of liquid (with electrolytes) every 16 mile loop. That means I I drank 3 gal of liquid during the race. at the temp never went above 45 degrees. (read: it was cold) Summer finally arrives in Michigan and my training runs were being done in 70+ degree heat, so I had to start drinking even more.

Now, I have never been good about drinking enough water, even before I went ketogenic. I just don't like the taste of water. I use Mio (and generic equivalent) flavoring to make it taste better, and when running add Hammer Electrolyte Fizz to also help, but it is the physical act of drinking lots of liquid that I still struggle with.

Then last week happened.

Memorial day weekend I spent in CA with brothers and friends and I did have more alcohol than I should have and less water than I should have, so I was a little dehydrated but thought little of it. I got back and then had a 34 mile training day on Wednesday and everything was fine, or so I thought. For my long day of the week, I was planning on doing 50ish miles on Friday. My body was totally ok (not sore from Wednesdays workout) so I took off for the first marathon of the day at 7am, knowing I had plenty of time to hit 50. At mile ~9, I picked up my friend Joel (who coincidentally told me a few days previous that he wants me to help him train for a 12 hour ultra) and we did 8 more. I had drank what I thought was enough water for the run up until that point, and sure enough, I had to go pee. It looked like Coca-Cola. Yup, blood in my urine.

I did not pass go, I did not collect $200. I stopped my run for the day, even though just like in August I felt just fine otherwise. Within two hours I was in my doctors office getting checked out. Sure enough, I had blood in my urine, but no infection (good news). We suspected rhabdomylosis again, but 2 things indicated that was not it. One was the fact that in those two hours I drank a good amount of liquids and my urine went back to clear (rhabdomylosis doesn't clear that fast) and subsequent blood test confirmed no rhabomylosis.

It looks like it was dehydration. We waited 3 days (and about 5 gal of liquid later) and did another battery of tests (blood and urine) as well as getting an ultrasound on my kidneys. The good news was that the urine sample came back negative (no more blood) and the blood test came back all cool. Again, it was negative for rhabdomylosis and other stuff (blood sugar, electrolytes, etc.) were all good as well.

The ultrasound was different. They found a cyst, but the good news is that it was not of size/location to cause concern or need for more tests.

Crisis, averted. What is funny is my doctor's official record says 'Patient may resume running and should drink water before, during, and after all workouts'. Ummm. yeah. :)

So I am supposed to drink 2.5L a day just because of my diet in addition to whatever I should be drinking for my running, which in the summer is A LOT. How the heck do I down that much liquid? I need to come up with some solution. At least now I have some more motivation because I know what will happen if I do not get enough.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Training for the End of the Marathon (Or: How To Prepare For The Hard Part)

Fini!Preparing for long distance races requires
preparing your body in many ways, both physically and mentally. You need your muscles to be strong enough to get you through it but you also need to be prepared for those things that out are there in the unknown, beyond your ‘normal’ training. There is a lot of unknown beyond that longest run you do that you should spend at least a little time working on.

Most people when training for their first marathon, top out at 18-20 miles for their longest run. While this prepares the muscles for the long haul that is the marathon distance, what about those last 5-6 miles? You are going to be tired and want to quit, that’s for sure. Are you going to be ready to tackle that?

For many people training for a marathon, there just is not enough time to actually do a 26 mile training run and some would say they don’t even want to, however you can easily (and only occasionally) mimic the conditions that you will be experiencing those last miles. One is being just plain physically tired and the other is the dreaded ‘bonk’ at the end of marathons that happens to so many marathoners. 

Problem 1: Energy Source
The well-known marathon bonk usually comes from a lack of glycogen in your body. When you eat carbohydrates (a standard pre-marathon ritual) your body turns those carbs into stored energy in the form of glycogen which gets jammed into your muscles. The funny (annoying?) thing about that process is that you can only pack so much glycogen into your muscles at once, and guess what? That is only 3-4 hours worth of ‘effort’ that is stored, which inconveniently, is just a little less than what the average marathoner needs to get to the finish line. 

While you might be able to consume gels and gatorade during the race, your body is not meant to digest and process food while running and many peoples stomach will reject such ‘food’ in which case bad things can happen, like gut-rot that really hurts when you are running. You are putting food in your stomach, but your stomach-processing-system is off line so that food you ate just re-coagulates in your stomach forming an very hard to digest glob in your stomach. This happened to me at the end of several races (before I figured it out) and would sometimes last more than 24 hours. 

Your muscles need the glycogen, but more importantly, your brain needs the glycogen, too. If you run out mid-race and your body is not prepared with a backup system ready to go, your brain goes a little weird and you have officially ‘bonked’ and bad things can happen. As a general rule your brain is the very last thing you want to starve of its fuel source.

The backup system is there, but most people have never had to use it since we don’t go very long without eating. Evolution has made you a very efficient machine such that you can go a week or so without any food (but you need water) because your body, if pushed to the task, can burn fat as your primary fuel source. In modern society, however, we eat plenty of carbs, evenly spaced out, so we rarely get to a point where we have to burn fat as our primary fuel source hence we are not very good at it. Waiting until mile 20 of a marathon to force your body to learn-on-the-fly how to burn fats is, well, just not nice to your body. 

Training your body to burn fats efficiently is something you have to ‘teach’ your cells. Some athletes will go all the way and eat very few carbs and burn fats as a primary fuel sources all the time. These ketosis athletes are hard core and the diet is VERY restrictive, but every marathoner can learn from the concept. We are trying to train your body to burn fat when needed and not be shocked when it happens. As with any other training component, the first time you do it, it might be a little harsh, but each subsequent time, it will be easier. 

Most people the night before their long run of the week might have a second helping of pasta, or a little more to drink before they go out for their run. If you want to mimic the end of the race, try (in training) to bend your comfort level. Instead of a big meal the night before, have a small salad. Go to bed just a little hungry. Instead of having a pre-run protein bar, just have a cup of tea. Your muscles can handle the 15 mile run you have planned, but where is the energy going to come from? Of course you have enough fat on board to finish the run (you have days worth!) but you need to get your body to start burning that during your 15 mile run, so you go in with low glycogen levels and your body will make the switch early in the workout. 

While this is a similar method needed when training your stomach for ultramarathons, it is not so bad as you just have to burn fat for the last handful of miles, assuming you have packed your 20 miles worth of glycogen into your muscles. 

Problem 2: Mental State
  You are tired at the end of races, whether it be a 5K or a 100 mile race, if you are doing it right, your tank is getting low at the end. Your body is doing what is supposed to, it is telling you “hey buddy, I’m tired and its time to stop here. We are getting low on fuel and you want to survive another day, we need to stop”. It is a pure survival mechanism.

That first 15 mile run you did was a little rough because you had never run that far before. The 5th time you did a 15 mile race it was no problem, because your brain knew how to handle all the operations needed (including metal) to make to the end of that run. The first and 5th 18 mile run was the same. It should not be a surprise that your first run longer than 20 miles (your first marathon) will have the same effect. If you brain has never experienced that anguish that first time could be rough. We don’t want it to be rough, we want your first marathon to be fun. So we just have to expose your mind to that crappy place that will be miles 20-26. 

This training is also easy, you just need to run when you are tired, and if you have family and kids, it is still easy. You either wake up early, or go to be late. 

Early morning runs are just that simple, you wake up early. Early enough to get up, run your ~12-15 mile run and be home before the rest of your life (spouse/kids) wakes up. As a rare occasion, it might not be that hard as long as you mentally prepare before such a workout. You have to get over that hump of your alarm going off and NOT hitting snooze. Think about it the night before. Visualize you getting out of bed, putting on your running clothes, grabbing your prepared water bottle and get out the door. The sooner you get out running (less than 10 minutes is great) the sooner you will be testing your ‘I am tired, darnit!’ resistance. Remember, this is meant to prove to your mind that when your body and brain are tired, you still have plenty of energy to get through the workout. What is really cool is when you come home and watch your family wake up from their sleep, you are wide awake and juiced with endorphins and are happy as you know you already have your workout for the day done before they even wake up.

Late night runs are similar, but you are trying to tired yourself out during the day (no naps, no lounging around after dinner) getting stuff done, cleaning, playing outside with your kids, whatever. Put your family to bed, then go out and do your 10-15 mile run. Of course you will be tired, that is the point. You are trying to prove to your mind that even when it THINKS you don't have enough energy to keep going, you really do. 

Again, as with any ‘new’ training protocol, the first time you do either of these ‘alternative’ runs, it will be hard, but every subsequent one will be easier. You do not need to be doing these all the time and even just 3-4 of these types of runs before a race will make a noticeable difference. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Running IS an Addiction, Be Careful

I had a few friends who ran the Indiana Trial 100 with me as their first 100 miler and after their success, they were already talking about doing stuff like the Midwest Grand Slam next year. They had just accomplished a new level of running achievement and before their muscles were recovered, they were talking about the next level to achieve.

I contend this is a slippery slope, and I want to try to explain why. But first, a disclaimer:

I am about to compare running to a drug or alcohol addiction. But please do not interpret this as A) negative reference to those with serious drug problems or B) that addictions are healthy. I am merely trying to explain a phenomena that I have seen with ultrarunners and the similarities with drug and alcohol addiction. ---Please, do not be offended---

People try drugs or drinking because to makes them feel good, reduces stress, put them elsewhere emotionally. When you are doing drugs or alcohol you can do too much or you can do it in moderation.
Doing it too much leads to a certain tolerance and then you have to do more and more and eventually you have to start doing more hard core drugs. Think cocaine to crack. Meth. Heroin. You know the stories. Alcohol is the same way. If you drink a lot, you get a tolerance and need more and more and it starts not being good enough.

And you can never really go back a level. You never hear of a person who has a cocaine problem, goes to rehab, goes back to smoking dope and enjoys it and can handle that level. True alcoholics who drink serious liquor can not easily go back to enjoy 1 glass of wine with dinner.

Moderation, however is a good thing. Many people stay at one level for quite a long time and are happy with that level. There is a point in addictions that you start chasing level 'upgrades' faster than you should. This is where the problems really start.

Ok, so lets talk about running and why we even do it. All runners know of what is called a 'runner's high' that comes from the endorphins coursing through our blood when we have a good solid run. This is a totally natural thing and evolution has supported it. Nature wants us to exercise so we stay fit so we can catch our food. It's all good.

Eventually we grow to like it and want more, so we run more. We start running a little longer and it might take us 5 miles to get that feeling. Then we want more.

We enter an actual race. Get a bib and toe the line for actual competition. We scream through our first 5K and we feel awesome. The high we feel can last for days. We may even wear our race shirt to work the next Monday and talk about it incessantly around the water cooler, annoying our coworkers.

The 5K is the first step, the first real level of addiction. Think of it as your first beer.

Eventually for many of us runners, 5K's soon become not enough of a high. We start needing a heavier drug so we might start training harder and go to a half marathon, or even a full marathon. (Malt liquor for our example)

Do a few of those and then that high after each one subsides. You need more, so maybe a marathon in every state, or running marathons in consecutive days, or trying to run 30 marathons in 6 months to get another 'star'. (Wine, if you are following along)

Then, it gets really bad. because by now you really enjoy the 'moving up' getting closer and closer to the edge of the crazies. You like being unique, the 'weirdo' at the office. You enjoy being different and you want to be more different.

The next step in this addiction is of course the ultra marathon, 50 miles +. The difficulty starts getting steeper, but that is what you want. If it takes more effort, the payoff is going to be higher. (And yes, we have reached the hard stuff, liquor)

So you run a 100 miler and it feels AWESOME when you finish. Amazingly, the emotional high of finishing your first 100 mile race is quite similar to the emotional high many people feel after their first 5K and their first marathon. You feel on top of the world.

But by now, you have gone through quite a few levels of running, and you starting to actually enjoy the increasing of difficulty. You are changing drugs so fast, you enjoy finding higher levels. You are moving up so fast you have no intention of leveling off. Let's go crazy.

And there are levels to go to. You can do a series of hundos in a short time frame (the Original Grand Slam, or the Midwest Grand Slam). You can run the toughest footrace on the planet, Badwater. You can do the Badwater double, or heck, the Badwater Quad. You can do 150 or 200 mile races. You can race across the state of Tennessee, or run ocean to ocean.

My point is this, if you start chasing up the ladder to fast and not enjoying the intermediate challenges, you are going to run out of news drugs to try. I know friends who run their first Hundo and then do several and within literally a year, Hundos bore them and need something bigger. Going back down a level is never really in the cards.

My name is Mark, and I am an running addict. I suffered this problem in my own life. Once I finished my 50 state quest, I needed a new challenge and I went straight to Hundos, skipping 50 mile and 100K races (I have never raced either distance) but when I started taking the Hundo drug, I consciously decided that I was going to stay here and enjoy it. I was going to cap my racing to 3, maybe 4 Hundos a year, no more. I want the races to still be a big deal. I want to enjoy the training, the lead up, and the post race bliss. I want to still have those same feelings I did when I ran my first marathon. I have done 8 now, and I can already feel the high weakening.

Right now, I still love the 100 mile distance. I am training hard for it and getting better, always learning from my mistakes and successes. It is still a lot of fun and challenging. Of course I am going to run Badwater. Of course I will probably run across the entire state of Michigan. Of course I will run across the entire United States. I am just trying to take my time and enjoy each challenge. I don't want to run out of new drugs before I die.

There is a lot of marrow to be sucked out of each level of running addiction. Take some time to enjoy each one or you will run (ha!) out too soon.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2013 Indiana Trail 100 Results (Or: How to Embrace the Suck)

2/57 overall (152 started)
1st male overall

The Indiana Trail 100 is the first ever trail 100 in Indiana and it was put on by a set of top notch crew of race directors at Chain O' Lakes State Park. All that was controllable was done perfectly. Absolutely everything about this race (except the weather and the trail) was perfect.  The fact that they got 250 runners the very first year is amazing in an of itself.

The RD’s had several training runs over the last 6 months including a nice run the day after Thanksgiving  so people could come get a feel for the trail, and I went down for two such runs. It was nice because it helped me to know how much hill work I should be doing. The course was 6 times around a 16.6 mile loop with gentle rolling hills through beautiful terrain. One of most beautiful trails I have been able to run on. However, when it rains, there a few wet crossings. When a monsoon rolls through, like it did 2 days before the race, it gets bad. Really bad.

The race personnel changed the course the day before the race to avoid water hazards that were over waist deep, but that meant some brand new trails were being blazed by the runners. Yes, there was some actual bush-wacking done during the day. At night, that would cause some problems. At the pre-race briefing the night before, we were told that the trails were some of the worst conditions that the RD’s had ever seen, and they have been running these trails for decades. That was not a good sign at all.

On my way into the area on Friday, seeing the ‘High Water’ road signs was not a good omen either. I choose to stay at Brick Ark Inn only 10 minutes away from the race. Misty and I had stayed there back in November and loved the hospitality of Tammy the innkeeper. She was very accommodating for the runners who were staying there, getting up at 3:45 am on race morning to make us breakfast.

My ace crew chief (my lovely wife) was unable to attend this race as my step son had major back surgery 3 days before. Luckily, I have enough experience that I spent some time making drop bags for myself the week of the race. Knowing it would be cold and wet, spread over the two drop bags (start/finish and at mile 9 of the loop) I had 5 full sets of clothes. Extra everything just in case. Turns out, I only did 2 costume changes all day long. At noon I removed one long sleeve shirt, going down to 2 layers. Then, at 7pm, I added a long sleeve shirt. That was it. During the warmer parts of the day (mid 40’s) when the sun was out, I would sweat just a bit, but when the sun went behind a cloud I would get a little cold. I surmised from those observations I was ok.

I have recently changed to a ketosis diet, so food at my drop bags were low-carb tortillas with butter, blackberries, blueberries, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs along with some salami. I ended up eating only the tortillas and berries, nothing else sat well in my stomach, but that was no great surprise. I also had my standard first-aid type of things at both aid drop bag locations. I was well prepared.

I was able to follow my aid station gospel to a tea, never being at any one of the 23 aid stations (the entire race total) for more than probably a minute. I always knew what I needed when I rolled in, and often had a friendly stranger help me get pills out of bags, but that was about it. I truly believe this method is one of the huge reasons for my success at this distance.

Knowing that it was going to be wet, I wanted to avoid wearing socks, so I decided to start the race with my Vibram Spyridons. I added some 2Toms sports shield which really helped. I packed 4 other sets of minimalist shoes in my drop bags just in case, but decided early on I was going to keep them on as long as possible. I did not expect to keep them on until the very end. I have never done a 100 miler in the same set of shoes before. It certainly shaved off some time, not having to change them out. I did some research (after the race of course), and before this race, the farthest I had ever run in a pair of Vibrams was only 29 miles. Hmm...

Ok, so lets talk about the weather. The temperatures were in the low 30s at start with a light snow and the winds up to 20 mph most of the day. The high for the day was in the low 40’s in afternoon and when the sun went down the temperature plummeted down into the 20’s.

Because of the heavy rainfall two days before, There were ~35 water crossings and ~60 unavoidable mud stretches were what made it this course so rough. What’s even better (worse?) was that they were spaced out evenly over the whole course so you never had to go much more than half a mile before you got muddy and/or wet. The water crossings were usually calf/knee deep and the water was relatively clean, so after a good mud section, the water would clean it off nicely. I’m being sarcastic of course. :) I was reminded of my previous worst-ever-race-conditions, the 2012 Winter Beast of Burden. That was just cold. This was wet AND cold. making this the worst running conditions I have ever run in, at any distance.

The race course was well marked, and yet I still made a wrong turn on the first lap, which added at least 10 minutes to my time. And of course, it was an obvious turn complete with big white sign. On my second lap, some large sticks were put in the way there, so I knew then I was not the only person who went wrong at that turn which made me feel a little better. :)

To bring in some elite runners, the race offered a $25,000 prize for anyone who could break the US 100 mile trail record which brought out a few speedsters, including the eventual winner, Michelle Yates. With there being a 50 mile distance as well, I started behind the lead pack of 8 people and let them take off. I have done this enough times to know, it is not who is in the lead at mile 3 that wins. I wanted to get into my long-term pace as fast as possible. While I walked/jogged through the muddy parts, I still ran the uphills, even after mile 50. My switch to minimalist running and the subsequent shortening of my normal stride helped. I have been doing a lot of hill work which also helped.

The aid stations were great, always with workers willing to help, though I needed little. For everyone of my laps, except the last, I followed this simple routine:

Start/finish: Swallow 3 Hammer Electrolyte pills, 2 Hammer Endurance Amino pills, 1 Anti-fatigue pill and then leave the aid station with 20 oz handheld filled with flavored Hammer electrolyte laced water and something solid & small to eat (small bag of fruit for example) while I walked out of the aid station. Because of these supplements, my muscles never cramped (the electrolytes) and my brain never faded either (the amino acid pills)

Mile 4 aid station: Drink 1 cup of water.

Mile 9 aid station: Refill the handheld with same custom concoction (I made 2 gallons beforehand) making sure I drank the entire 20 oz since the last major aid. Again, grab something solid and small to eat on way out of aid station.

Mile 14 aid station: Drink 1 cup of water.

That's it. No need for a complicated plan. So short and simple, even I can't screw it up.

I carried my iPod from the very beginning and ended up listening to techno from about mile 50 until the end pausing it only to chat with runners I was passing and aid stations workers. It kept me moving, even when I was power-walking to the beat near the end.

As expected, I did not touch 80% of the stuff in my drop bags, but that is a good thing. You never know what you WILL need, so I pack pretty much everything, knowing full well I will not touch much of it. Before a Hundo, you never really know what is going to go wrong (something always does) so you must prepare for all reasonable scenarios.

At the end of lap 5, there was only about 15 minutes until sunset and I knew life was going to go from bad to worse. While I could walk around many of the mud spots by bush-wacking a little bit, at night it was harder to find the right detour, so I ended up going through more mud than I did any of the other laps. And it was way colder. And I was tired. There is no pill or food that could cure the 'my feet are cold and wet and I hate this course' problem I was having. Experience and unwillingness to quit kept me going. At no point did I even think about stopping, but slowing way down was contemplated.

Being on a ketosis diet as an ultrarunner gives me one small advantage in that at the end of race a little carbs serves as extra-special fuel. So I drank some Pepsi at the aid stations and only water in my handheld the last lap. I will be honest, I didn’t feel like it helped, and it made my stomach upset I think. Though, my stomach gets upset at the end of all my Hundos.

Once the sun went down, the temp dropped quickly into the 20’s and I started getting even colder, but kept slogging. I was down to power-walking most of the loop, but even that still at 15 min/mile pace. Keeping your arms up really makes a difference when you hit that stage.

A word about the overall winner, Michelle Yates. She is an elite runner, and while this was her first 100 mile race, she has won the 50 mile and 100K national championships as well as qualified for the Olympic trials. I did not mind losing to her at all. The fact that she beat me by less than an hour is pretty awesome, actually. I would like the record to show, that my lap 5 split was the same and my lap 6 split was faster than hers :)

At about mile 88, I passed a couple of people and as I said ‘good job!’, one asked me if I was Mark Ott. I said yes, and she said to her running companion “I told you, he’s the male overall leader”. What?! She told me that the leaderboard said I was in the lead after lap 3 and 4. I was on my 6th lap (she was on her 5th) and I didn’t even know there WAS a leader board. I found it later inside the aid station tent that I never went into :) I knew nobody had passed me (actually, no one passed me all day long) and now, for the first time I knew I was the leading male. Crap, now I had to try not to lose it. I hate pressure.

I was passing people at a good clip, so I was trying to keep an eye on every headlamp I passed and making sure the lamps never got closer behind me. I had no idea at all how much of a lead I had on the #3 runner, so I assumed they were right behind me, so every time I looked behind me and it looked like the light was getting any closer, I would pick up my speed a little bit if not outright running. At about mile 95 I caught up to two guys but they were moving pretty quick. Turns out, they were on lap 5 but still moving good. I got into a good pace with one of them and we power-walked the last 5 miles of the loop together keeping each other company. It took my mind off the awfulness of the trail.

I finished the race and went into the aid station tent for the first time. Boy, was it warm in there! RD Mike came over and gave me my awesome winner plaque and congratulated me. It was a great feeling, but then my nausea set in. I have a track record of always getting sick and my blood pressure dropping bad at the end of Hundos. After sitting for about 5 minutes, I had to go puke, but on my way out the tent, I sortof sat down. Quickly. ‘Medic!’ was the next word I heard someone say and in short order, I had two EMT’s on me asking me questions and putting warm blankets around me. About 5 minutes later I was in the back of an ambulance trying to convince the EMT’s that I didn’t need to go to the hospital. They were pushy about it, but I explained to them that A) This is normal for me and B) The conversation with my wife would be much worse if I went to the hospital. When they were finally able to get a blood pressure on me (it took them a little while), it was 88 over 42. They got concerned and even tried to trick me into letting them take me to the hospital against my will (key word: disorientation) by asking me questions (confirming my street address, for example) just to see if I would get them wrong. In my delirious state I kept telling them ‘Please stop. My head is fine and I am thinking clearly, I just need to stabilize’. They did not trust my experience of my own body I guess, but they were doing their job, so no foul.

Of course, I had yet to deal with my feet. The feet that have been cold and wet for now almost 20 hours. Once the medics released me after almost an hour, I went back into the tent and carefully removed my Vibrams and before I put a pair of dry socks and shoes on, I hold my feet up to the heater to try to warm my toes. It was not working. I decided I need to get stable mentally ad physically so I can go back to the B&B and take a shower and get some rest. I left everything including my award and buckle and drove the 15 minutes back and carefully took a shower. The warm water on my toes was excruciatingly painful. Houston, we have a problem.

Turns out, I had real life case of frostnip on my toes, and all 10 of them were completely numb. The pain coming from the de-frosting was the most pain I have ever experienced in my life. It really did feel like someone had cut off my toes. I ended up having to soak them in lukewarm water for 30 min just to make it so that I could rest, as sleep was impossible. Oh, and I was wandering around my room at the Bed and Breakfast sobbing like a baby it hurt so bad to move. Luckily no other soul was awake to hear me grovel.

I got up about 7am the next day and had a little breakfast before heading back to the race to get my stuff and chat with folk and cheer on the other runners. In looking at the leader board, I could tell it was a rough night. The final race results tell the tale. In the 100 mile race, there were 152 starters, only 57 finished, with 20 of those over 29 hours and only 3 finishers under 20 hours. For those of you who don't know, that means it was a tough race.

I am not sure what helped me out the most, my switch to minimalist footwear, my ketosis diet, my HSW training, or my mental attitude and experience. It was certainly some of all of those things. I am just glad I get to keep the title “Pretty good Ultrarunner”. That’s all I really want.

Race report from #1 finisher, Michele Yates       Race report from #3 finisher, Paul Stofko
Race Report from Rick Simon                   Race report from a friend, Andrew Siniarski